Last Saturday morning, a large group of 54 people gathered in a parking lot at the base of the popular trail leading up to West Cuesta Ridge in San Luis Obispo. The group was comprised of volunteers and representatives from the US Forest Service, CCCMB, Los Padres ForestWatch, the SLO Chamber of Commerce, and athletes from the SLO High School swim team. Attendees were treated to coffee and muffins generously donated by Nautical Bean, as they milled about in the small parking lot and signed attendance sheets and waivers. Once everyone was properly fed, caffeinated, and signed in, the US Forest Service gave a brief introduction and orientation, which was followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony by the Chamber of Commerce to celebrate Los Padres ForestWatch’s new membership to the Chamber.
Once things in the parking lot had been wrapped up, the group headed up the deteriorated road, some bouncing along in trucks, others opting to hike the 1.4 mile road to the sites. Once nearing the ridge, volunteers split into two smaller groups in order to tackle the massive extent of microtrash.
Despite being an incredibly popular recreational area, West Cuesta Ridge is relatively unmanaged and as a result suffers from illegal target shooting, trash dumping, and vandalism. At first sight, the trail looks like any other, but on further inspection, thousands of shards of glass, bullet casings, and other debris can be found packed into the dirt.
The volunteers tilled through the dirt on hands and knees, undeterred by the temperatures that were creeping up to the record highs they would set. By the end of the event around noon, they were able to fill multiple garbage bags with just tiny bits of microtrash. In addition to this, they were able to haul a number of cushions and even a mattress and box spring out of the surrounding chaparral. In total, they were able to remove multiple hundreds of pounds of microtrash from a stretch of road less than half a mile in length.
Huge thank you to everyone who attended: USFS, CCCMB, SLOHS Swim Team, SLO Chamber of Commerce, and the countless members of our community! This was a great way to kick-off LPFW’s first volunteer event in San Luis Obispo and we couldn’t have done it without all the help from our community!